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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2493 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

after human beings not just in this community but also around the world who are suffering terrible ills.


(Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for the Environment) (4.13): I am happy to support the motion moved earlier in the following terms:

That the ACT Legislative Assembly declares the Australian Capital Territory to be refugee friendly.

The ACT Government has consistently expressed its support for refugees who reside in Canberra. I have taken every opportunity to encourage refugees to make their home in the ACT. I have also encouraged people in the ACT to be supportive of and sensitive to the needs of refugees. As has been mentioned, the ACT Government has provided free public school education, free medical treatment at ACT public hospitals and medical facilities, concessions on government services such as electricity, public transport and dental care, and access to translating and interpreting services.

The government has sought to improve the settlement conditions of refugees in the ACT. Quite significantly, we have attempted to close the gap left by the Commonwealth government relating particularly to refugees on temporary protection visas by offering free English language courses at the Canberra Institute of Technology and, concomitantly, free child-care services for those attending English lessons and transport to those lessons.

One significant point that was made earlier in debate was the fact that it has been left to the states and territories to pick up the fundamental support that the Commonwealth government perversely and meanly refuses to provide to many people who, irrespective of the final outcomes of their cases, have lived in Australia for many years. That has certainly been the experience of Kosovar refugees or families that have made Canberra their home. The children of those families, who have been in Canberra for a number of years and who attend our schools, have adapted perhaps more quickly than their parents.

They have learnt to speak English quite fluently as a result of their attendance at ACT schools but, in most instances, their parents or older members of the Kosovar community are faced with real difficulties. I have come to know many of those families who now attend English language classes. Their competency in English is improving dramatically and, as a result, their capacity to participate in community life has increased. Their self-esteem, their health, their whole outlook and their view of the world have greatly improved. Unfortunately, those services are not being provided by the federal government, which has a mean-hearted and mean-spirited attitude to the provision of support to people seeking asylum in Australia.

The government works closely with a number of refugee groups, notably, Canberra Refugee Support group, St John's Kippax Refugee Resettlement Committee and Companion House, to provide support to those people who choose to stay in Canberra. It has been asserted-Ms Dundas touched on this point-that, generally, the ACT community is very supportive of asylum seekers. Our community would have no hesitation in extending a hand of friendship and being friendly towards

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